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USask unites SLAM and ArcGIS to create self-serve asset condition maps

How do universities keep track of all the aboveground and underground infrastructure that enables students to learn and communities to thrive? How are they making responsible decisions about upgrades and capital spending? The University of Saskatchewan (USask) is pioneering a new, spatially enabled method for visualizing their asset management plans using a combination of Roth IAMS’s SLAM CAP software and Esri’s ArcGIS suite. As a result, asset condition data is reaching more people and helping the organization generate better capital planning estimates.

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) is one of Canada's leading research-intensive universities. With a main campus covering over 1,800 acres and approximately 8 million square feet of built space, USask has a large amount of infrastructure that needs to be tracked to ensure that it can be maintained and replaced as required.

USask collaborated with Roth IAMS, an asset management consultant, to complete facility condition assessments (FCAs) of all USask buildings. Through Roth IAMS, USask licenses the SLAM (Streamlined Asset Management) CAP (Capital Asset Planning) software to leverage the FCA data and develop prioritized multiyear capital plans to help tell its asset management story. 
Using SLAM CAP software, large organizations like universities can monitor the life cycle of their assets using best practices. The asset data is catalogued in a database, making it easy to organize and access. The software also helps them prioritize their capital investment planning and supports the design and execution of preventative maintenance plans, which help organizations align their plans with their resource allocations. 

To provide a more complete view of the capital renewal needs of the entire campus (not just the buildings), USask and Roth were planning to conduct infrastructure condition assessments (ICAs) of the surface and subsurface infrastructure. Knowing that USask had made a large investment in a geographic information system (GIS) for the campus infrastructure, the team identified an opportunity to bring the two processes and systems together.  

While SLAM CAP provides the ability to visualize the asset data, it does not provide a geospatial interface. That was where a GIS specialist, Jason Anspach, based in USask’s Planning, Design and Construction group, became involved. Collectively, the team saw the benefit of making the data stored in SLAM geospatially linked.

“We needed to be able to share the location of these assets in a more intuitive form,” says Jason. “When there are watermain breaks that cause flooding, for example, USask’s facilities teams want something handy that will show them exactly where to go.”

A screenshot of the University of Saskatchewan’s “WaterAuditMap-App” application, built in ArcGIS Web AppBuilder and hosted in an on-premises ArcGIS Enterprise portal. The map shows a zoomed-in part of the University of Saskatchewan’s main campus. A number of water distribution assets, including water pumps, watermains, fire hydrants and service connections, are shown with numbered labels. One area is highlighted in blue, showing that it relates to grouped elements in the university’s Streamlined Asset Management (SLAM) CAP implementation.

Static maps mean static data—which means out-of-date information

ArcGIS offered USask the ability to group assets being managed in ArcGIS, then export them as SLAM CAP grouped elements. Using interactive web maps in ArcGIS, they were able to visualize SLAM CAP data and easily share it with stakeholders.  

From the 1990s into the 2000s, USask primarily used a CAD-based system that included campus infrastructure drawings and floor plans. This system was primarily intended for drafting and as-built representations of facilities. Associating asset information databases that could easily be queried or updated was a known gap. It was deemed not to be the right fit for a large-scale campus mapping project like USask’s. The solution needed to be database-driven and shareable and had to provide context for the data it stored. In other words, USask needed a smarter option.

Because USask had an existing Esri Educational Site License—which provides affordable access to ArcGIS software for use across the institution—they already had access to ArcGIS software tools that they could use to augment the data in SLAM. This meant they could achieve their goals at no additional cost to the university’s GIS department.

After exploring Esri’s suite of technology tools they settled on ArcGIS Web AppBuilder as the software of choice for adding a spatial dimension to SLAM CAP.

A screenshot of USask’s campus map in ArcGIS Online, showing buildings, roadways, walkways, bus stops, parking areas and other parts of campus as unique objects.

Getting set up has its hurdles, but pays off in shareable self-serve apps

The first step in the process was to build an accurate basemap from USask’s existing record drawings. According to Jason, “My first director always said that you need to have a robust and accurate basemap as a starting point, because that’s what the rest of the system will build on.” They also had to develop data standards to ensure that inputs were of high quality. There was also an essential IT component: making sure that ArcGIS Enterprise was being properly hosted on a server that suited the university’s needs.

Roth IAMS associated individual polygon groups stored in SLAM CAP with real-world objects managed in ArcGIS. They did this by accessing USask’s ArcGIS Enterprise portal and using the interactive web map application. Using ArcGIS Pro, they then ran analyses on these groupings, which include underground utilities, parking and transportation services, and water services (such as watermains), to build the integration between data stored in SLAM CAP and ArcGIS. The GIS data was then transferred into the SLAM database.

By the early 2000s, USask had four apps set up: a campus basemap that showed buildings, roads and walkways; a map of underground utilities; one for land inventory; and another for USask’s grounds crew that showed all the main irrigation lines on campus.

Now, USask maintains numerous apps, many of which are accessed daily by administrative staff all over campus.

A screenshot of the University of Saskatchewan’s ArcGIS Enterprise portal, used by Roth IAMS, showing 10 maps developed by Roth IAMS for data grouping and verification. Top row, L-R: the gallery app for USask’s Infrastructure Audit Team; the Sanitary Audit Map; the Storm Sewers Audit Map; the Water Audit Map; and the Service Tunnel Audit Map. Bottom row, L-R: the Steam Audit Map; the Electrical, Heating and Ventilation Audit Map; the Walkway Audit Map; the Chilled Water Audit Map; and the Quadrants Map.

More accurate and reliable capital planning estimates, thanks to integrated views

USask has significantly improved their asset condition assessment process by enhancing its existing SLAM CAP dataset with ArcGIS. USask now has a spatial way of querying the information stored in SLAM CAP and can identify areas of risk on campus. The system allows users to create and share high-quality maps based on up-to-date information among stakeholders involved in internal planning.

With this integration, asset condition data from SLAM CAP can now be imported into ArcGIS for analysis. For USask, reducing data redundancy improves data quality, which in turn enables more accurate and reliable estimates. This then allows decision makers to better plan for asset maintenance, renewal, and replacement.

Using maps generated from SLAM CAP data in ArcGIS Enterprise, USask’s planning and facilities team can now easily see which areas need the most work, allowing facilities managers to prioritize their limited resources.

“It’s a whole new way to look at campus data,” says Jason. “Having the best information we can get in a real-time updated format saves a huge amount of frustration.”

A screenshot of the University of Saskatchewan’s underground infrastructure map, which shows a complex, overlapping set of networks including sanitary sewers, watermains, buried electrical services, communication ducts, steam pipes and more.

The result: better asset management decisions 

Currently, these apps are being used by close to 100 university administrative staff as a self-serve option for getting asset information, adding new items and exploring the live updated maps. The apps are available not only on desktop computers but on mobile devices as well, so by bringing maps to more devices, USask is bringing the data to more people and improving collaboration.

Jason is also helping to maintain and update the data in SLAM CAP with the help of ArcGIS. For example, by recording and then uploading more accurate information about the physical area of roads and sidewalks so that facilities teams can generate better repair and replacement estimates.

USask has big plans for the future of ArcGIS. Their next step is a wayfinding project that will enhance the campus experience. They also want to make greater use of drone data to fill in areas on their maps that lack data. Finally, they hope to implement a dashboard that will summarize some of the SLAM CAP data in ArcGIS, to help end users interact with web maps in many different ways.

Curious about this enhanced spatial approach to capital planning? Reach out to your local GIS, geography or spatial analysis department to see if your institution already has access to Esri technology. Or, reach out to us directly and we’ll connect you with the right resources.

About the Author

Dani Pacey is a Marketing Specialist for Esri Canada. She digitized her first map at the tender age of 10 and has been fascinated by the relationships between people and places ever since. An avid technical communicator with degrees in Science & Technology Studies from York University and History of Science & Technology from the University of King's College, Dani has always blended science, social science and the humanities and loves bringing them all together to tell great stories about human life.

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